Marlena Lucas stood outside her severely damaged home Monday with gratitude in her heart.
She was inside the home on Windmill Court with her two sons Saturday when a tornado struck. It tore most of the roof off, but she and her sons walked away unharmed.
She recounted the story for Mayor Randy Toms, who stopped by to visit with victims of the storm that caused widespread damage — but no injuries.
“There’s a lot of damage to this house, and all three of y’all could have been gone,” Toms told her.
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Lucas said when the storm struck, she and her sons, Patrick, 13, and Landon, 2, first went into a bathroom. The roof started caving in, so they moved into a closet and huddled there until the tornado passed over. It wasn’t until she walked outside that she saw how badly the house had been damaged.
“I thank God,” she said. “He was definitely with us. It was scary. Very scary.”
She rented the home and said all of her belongings are still inside. She is looking for another place to stay. Toms told her the fire department has said she can go inside, but warned her to be very careful. He offered to go in with her Monday but she said she wanted to come back when she had more help.
Her neighbor, Brenda Mathis, first checked her vehicles after the storm passed then looked over at Lucas’ house and was shocked at the damage. She immediately ran over and was relieved when Lucas came to the door.
“I was happy to see they were OK,” she said. “I saw their vehicle in the garage and knew they were at home. I was just praying they were OK.”
Toms was at a Georgia Municipal Association conference in Atlanta when the storm struck. Monday was his first chance to get a close look at the damage, which left six families homeless.
“We are so fortunate that we didn’t have any serious injuries or any deaths,” he said. “That’s a thing we can be grateful for.”
He also commended all of the emergency responders for their work Saturday and said many residents he had spoken with expressed their gratitude.
The neighborhood where Lucas lives is next to the Wal-Mart on Booth Road, which is closed due to storm damage. Toms visited there Monday, and he said there was significant damage, although he added it is not as much as initially feared. He did not know when the store might reopen but he believed it may be soon. Dozens of cars were in the parking lot Monday as repair work continued inside.
“Their plan is to open up part of the store and work on the parts they are going to have to replace the roof on,” he said.
Phone calls to Wal-Mart’s media representatives in Atlanta were not returned.
Toms said a city utility worker happened to be in the store shopping when the storm struck. The damage burst a natural gas line inside the store.
“He was able to get to the gas shut-off quickly or that could have been a whole lot worse,” Toms said.
A second storm Sunday was blamed for the deaths of 15 people in south Georgia. The Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter posted on its Facebook page Monday that it is collecting donations to help the south Georgia victims. Items will be collected Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Anyone with questions call call 478-988-6483. People should go to the east gate and will be directed where to go from there. Suggested items include bottled water, nonperishable foods, any sized clothing for men, women and children, along with all types of personal care items.